12/24/15 Show feat. Lucianne Walkowicz on Exoplanets and Alien Megastructures

af6bbdfdd36307c7cb26702fd0da799d8bd7f505_800x600Happy Christmas, listeners! In this rockin’ show Lucianne Walkowicz called in to WPRB from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where she works on NASA’s Kepler Mission as well as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (a telescope currently being built down in Chile). In this interview we focus on the Kepler mission’s search for exoplanets – these are planets outside of our solar system. We discuss questions such as: What makes a planet habitable? How does a star’s properties influence the planet’s habitability? How does Kepler go about finding these planets when they’re so much smaller and dimmer than their accompanying star? How could we know if there is life on these planets? And much more!

We delved in to some mysteries found by the Kepler mission, including KIC 8462852, aka “Tabby’s Star.” In late October, news stories about this anomalous star went viral as speculation swirled about what it could be. One of the theories stated that the star’s weird signature could be evidence of an advanced alien civilization. In this interview, Lucianne tells us why. (To listen to the interview – just the interview without the rest of the music, etc. of the rest of the show – click here.)

Towards the end of the show I played a short interview with particle physicist Stephane Cooperstein on recent findings out of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland – and what they could mean. More information here. In the interview we mention the plot below.cwrui2owiaat7o52b


Extra resources:

Lucianne’s rad punk band, DITCH CLUB, just released a new EP! Listen here:

Show playlist:

Artist Song Album Label
Wanda Jackson, The Cramps Funnel of Love Heart Trouble CMH Records
Intro (2:35)
Gang of Four Ether Entertainment Warner Brothers
The Wyrms War Machine At Wizard Island Negative Fun Records
Car Seat Headrest Oh! Starving Teens of Style Matador
Jeff Rosenstock You, in weird cities We cool? Side one dummy records
Lucianne Walkowicz, Part I Exoplanets, Stars, and Alien Megastructures N/A
Nana Grizol Galaxies Ruth Orange Twin Records
Dismemberment Plan What do you want me to say? What do you want me to say? b/w since you died DeSoto Records
Pochoclo Las Trillizas de Oro ¡Chicas! Spanish Female Singers Vol.2 1963-78 VAMPISOUL
Lucianne Walkowicz, Part II Exoplanets, Stars, and Alien Megastructures N/A
Ditch Club King of Cups EP ditchclub.bandcamp.com
Ditch Club Reality Check EP ditchclub.bandcamp.com
Worriers Yes All Cops Imaginary Life Don Giovanni
The Fall My New House This Nation’s Saving Grace Beggars Banquet Records
Interview with Stephane Cooperstein New Results from the Large Hadron Collider N/A
Old Town School of Folk Music Twist and Shout Songs For Wiggleworms Old Town School
Joanna Gruesome Wussy Void Weird Sister Slumberland
Blonde Redhead Cat on Tin Roof Barragán Blonde Redhead


12/17/15 Show Discussing Women and Minorities in STEM and the Arts with Simone Sneed

Featured image above is from Empower Magazine article, “Overcoming the rarity of underserved minorities in STEM”.

simonesneed_headshotIn this episode of These Vibes Are Too Cosmic I speak with Simone Sneed, board liaison at the Environmental Defense Fund and professor at NYU in Civic and Social Organization, on the troubling statistics of women and minorities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. We get deep in to this topic, speculating on how it came about and what can be done about it as well as current initiatives working towards getting more minorities in STEM fields. Additionally, we discuss the analogous trends in arts and business/non-profits.

Simone Sneed also writes for many news sources, including the Huffington Post. One of my favorite of her pieces is on “What the Shutdown Taught Us About Women’s Leadership.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 11.11.04 AM
Scientists and engineers working in science and engineering occupations: 2013 Image and statistics from NSF.gov


At the end of the show, I jump back on the mic to mention a recent press release from the president of the American Astronomical Society in response to a new study claiming that the GRE physics exam shows little correlation with success in the field and that the scores appear to be systematically biased against women and minoritiesThen I briefly mention some new results out of the Large Hadron Collider! More on that in the next show.


Some extra resources:


Playlist for the show:

Artist Song Album Label
LCD Soundsystem Watch the tapes Sound of Silver Parlaphone
Intro (3:47 – 9:17)
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers New England Roadrunner: The Berserkeley Collection Sanctuary
New Madrid Forest Gum Sunswimmer New West Records
Elia Fleta Tu vida cambio Chicas! Spanish female singers vol 2 1963-78 vampisoul
Downtown Boys Montro Full Communism Don Giovanni
Part 1: Simone Sneed (20:55 – 36:51)
Lou Reed Walk on the wild side Transformer RCA
Carseat Headrest Something soon Teens of Style Matador
Happyness Refrigerate Her Weird little birthday Bar none records
Kim Jung Mi Haenim Now Lion Productions
Part 2: Simone Sneed (52:21 – 1:16:00)
Shamir Youth Ratchet XL Recordings
tUnE-yArDs Bizness W H O K I L L 4AD Ltd
Little Dragon Klapp Klapp Nabuma Rubberband Seven Four Entertainment
Leikeli47 Heard em say Leikeli47 Hard Cover
Part 3: Simone Sneed (1:31:30 – 1:37:06)
G.L.O.S.S. Outcast Stomp DEMO s/r
Girl Band Um Bongo Holding Hands with Jaime Rough Trade
Skinny Girl Diet Dimethyltryptamine Skinny Girl Diet Fiasco Recordings
The Distillers Drain the blood Drain the blood Reprise Records
Mic Break (1:49:45 – 1:53:06)
Sales Renee Sales EP s/r
Outro: Science news! (1:56:00 – 1:59:00) The AAS/pGRE and the new LHC findings

12/10/15 Show Discussing Big Science with Guest Co-Host Brian Kraus, Plasma Physicist

(Featured image above is of the Very Large Array telescopes. Image from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.)

In this show Brian and I discuss what’s called “Big Science.” What we mean when we use that descriptor, and some of the amazing examples across the science fields including satellites to undersea observatories to particle colliders and fusion reactors. We also discuss some of the overwhelming obstacles to big science — from funding to choosing a project a whole field agrees on to getting thousands of scientists across the world to collaborate smoothly. There are positive and less so examples of these, and we mention several. Additionally, we dig a little bit in to how we got here. How big science projects became necessary, when they weren’t just decades prior.

And interweaved with all of that is, as always, music.

Discussion begins at about 3 minutes in.

(Cover image of the recording is from the ALICE experiment (one of the four detectors at interaction points in the Large Hadron Collider) at CERN.)

Some mentions during the show:

Playlist below:

Artist Song Album Label
The Tuts Christmas is in the air Have Faith with Kate Nash This Christmas 10p Records
Intro (3:00)
Mourn Otitis Mourn Captured tracks
Sally ford and the sound outside They told me Untamed Beast Partisan Records
Courtney Barnett Shivers Blue Series Third man records
Dark Dark Dark In your dreams Wild go Supply and Demand
Mic break 1 Big science
Chastity Belt Seattle Party No Regrets Help yourself
Shopping No show Why Choose fat cat
Grimes SCREAM (feat. Aristophanes) Art Angels 4AD records
Skating Polly Ugly Fuzz Steilacoom Chap Stereo
Mic break 2 Big science
Dan Aurebach The Prowl Keep it hid V2 Records
MOTO Gagging on the Edge of Love Ampeg Stud / Motoerectus Motopac
Beat Happening Indian Summer Indian Summer 7″ Domino
Wreckless Eric Whole Wide World Greatest Stiffs Stiff Records
Mic break 3 Big science
Wolf Eyes T.O.D.D. I am a problem: mind in pieces Third man records


12/3/15 Show feat. Gloria Tavera (Case Western) on Malaria, Immunology, and the Fight for Equal Access to Medicines

Malaria is a colossal global problem. In Africa, a child a minute perishes due to the parasite. It’s easy not to be aware of this in the US, where malaria hasn’t been a problem for many years – but 3.4 billion people (half the world’s population) lives in areas at risk of the disease.

untitled-thumbnailIn this episode of These Vibes Are Too Cosmic I speak with Gloria Tavera, MD/PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. We discuss the general mechanics of our immune systems and malaria’s effect on it. We get in to why malaria is so difficult to treat and why so many children die from the parasite. Gloria explains the new malaria vaccine – both why it’s exciting and how it is far from a full solution (or even a full malaria vaccine), but rather an important step along the road to eradication.

In the last portion of the show we discuss another deeply important topic, and a great passion of Gloria’s: equal access to medicines worldwide. Gloria is president of the board of directors for UAEM (Universities Allied for Essential Medicines), an organization that uses a muti-tiered approach to leveling the access to affordable medications across the world, and particularly in developing countries. Gloria uses the example of insulin. In Sub-Saharan Africa people commonly die of diabetes due to the fact that insulin is rare and, when available, unaffordable. The system is stacked against them.

So, listen up, learn about our world, and get fired up!

Some extra info on malaria immunity (from Gloria Tavera):


The figures above (found here) show how an antibody, along with a set of molecules called complement, can bind a malaria parasite and keep it from invading a human red blood cell, which keeps it from surviving and reproducing.

The second figure above on that page shows how the set of molecules, called complement, bind to antibodies and make the antibodies even more effective at killing the malaria parasite and keeping it from entering human red blood cells.
More information on the fight for access to medicines (from Gloria Tavera):
UAEM creates a report card that grades universities on their access to medicines policies. We do this every other year (this one’s from 2015, then next one will be released in 2017).

Here’s a short video we made that explains what is wrong with the current reseach and development system and how we propose to fix it.

Related to that video, is a petition to the World Health Organization (WHO) that we have created. We are calling on World Health Organization member states to fund a pool of money (prize funding) for researchers to create drugs, diagnostics and vaccines that are targeted to help solve diseases of major public health importance, that will be available royalty-free.

If you’re interested in going even deeper, read the recent LA Times piece from Economist Mariana Mazzucato, on problems and solutions regarding our current, global biomedical research and development system.


Playlist for the show:

Artist Song Album Label
The Coathangers Springfield Cannonball Suck My Shirt Suicide Squeeze
Show intro
Angel Olsen Creator, Destroyer Strange Cacti Bathetic Records
Sleater Kinney Hey Darling No Cities to Love Sub Pop
Courtney Barnett Boxing Day Blues (Revisited) Blue Series Third Man
Wolf Eyes Enemy Ladder I am a problem: Mind in pieces Third Man
Gloria Tavera Malaria Immunology
Swearin’ Just Swearin’ Salinas
Candi Stanton Sweet Feeling Stand By your man Parlophone
Fugazi Waiting Room 13 Songs Dischord
Beat Happening Foggy Eyes Indian Summer 7″ Domino
Gloria Tavera Malaria Immunology
Nap Eyes No man needs to care Whine of the mystic Paradise of bachelors
Hunx & his punx You think you’re tough Street punk Hardly art
Patti Smith Smells like teen spirit – radio edit Outside society Sony
Gloria Tavera UAEM
Queens of the Stoneage

(Interviewee pick)

Mosquito song Songs for the deaf Interscope
Willy Mason

(Interviewee pick)

Oxygen Where the humans eat Virgin records

(Interviewee pick)

Trippy gum Very best of hinds so far Mom and pop